From San Francisco Up North

Friday, 7 July 2006, Bandon, OR
On Sunday when we left San Francisco, we had planned only as far as getting out of the noisy city and finding some quiet place to sleep that night. But we hadn't really figured on it being a long weekend. We had been under the impression for some time that July 4, falling on a Tuesday, would not make a long weekend (along the way we had been told this by a couple of different people we had met, although they had been in Utah and New Mexico.) So we were surprised to find that most of California was on the road and that campgrounds were booked out months ahead with no space to be had.
Initially we drove Highway 1, which follows the coast. It was slow going as this road is very bumpy and windy, and also up and down hills. And the fog persisted along the coast, which made it rather uninviting to stop. We had driven for several hours and passed quite a few campgrounds in coastal state parks, all of which had full signs out, when we decided that perhaps we should drive inland and find a place in a forest, hoping for a spot like we had found outside Yosemite.
We turned off the highway just before Jenner and drove toward Guerneville. Along the way we had also tried some private RV Parks and campgrounds, with no degree of success. Our last effort to camp legally was a small state park just north of Guerneville, but it was also full. We were now just looking for any place that was off the road and flat enough to park, when we stumbled across a campground that wasn't marked on any of our maps. The Schoolhouse Canyon Campground is a private campground in amongst very tall trees, some of them Redwoods and others Pepper trees (some type of Bay). They had a few sites left which was surprising as it was after 6.30 by this time. We had left San Francisco about 1.00 and driven less than 100 miles, but it felt like one of our longest drives yet!
We were relieved just to be able to stop for the day. The site was quite good for our camper and they even had power available. The bathrooms could have been cleaner, but that was our only criticism. We slept until about 8.30 Sunday morning, which is really late for us. I think we were helped in this by the fact that the tall trees made it quite dark. We took our time leaving and were on the road shortly after 11.00 - checkout time. Now we knew that we would probably face the same problem with campgrounds until Tuesday evening.
Not wanting to retrace our path in from the coast, we took an alternate route, via the small settlement of Cazadero, back to Highway 1. It proved to be one of the narrowest, winding roads we had yet experienced and it climbed up and up and then down and down. I was driving and rarely exceeded 10 mph, since I had to be ready to stop immediately if someone came around the corner from the opposite direction. And most of the corners needed to be taken at that speed anyhow. It was quite nerve-wracking. We drove for about an hour and then stopped for lunch on the side of the road. I think we had covered about 9 miles! It was definitely Juergen's turn to drive when we went on.
The countryside is so lush and green here - the contrast with the desert, where we have spent the majority of our time until now, is constantly astounding. We found ourselves in forests of very tall trees again and again. One thing that really stands out is the plethora of wildflowers along the edge of the roads. They come in all colours and seem to grow there without any intervention - some of us at home would love to have such a display in our gardens in the middle of summer!
The end of this road afforded us a very charming view across fields of some sort of grain, or maybe just grass gone to seed, toward the Pacific. It was a relief for both of us that we had reached the end of this 'long and winding road'!
We continued along the coast and at times even drove through sunshine - although the fog predominated. We drove through more charming little beachside towns and passed more campgrounds, most with full signs. By mid-afternoon, we decided to stop and check out places to stay so that we wouldn't be on the road as late as the day before. The first place we tried was Manchester State Park, and we discovered a campground that was almost empty. It was a bit more primitive than some, and only had pit toilets and no showers, but it was off the road and a thick row of large cypress trees protected us from the cold wind blowing from the ocean. It was also a first come, first served campground with self-registration - no rangers in sight. Obviously this little part of the coast is not the place to be on the July 4 weekend, but we were very grateful for that. Since we had stopped so early, it was nice to have some time to relax. I finished the last diary that I had begun that morning and Juergen sat in the sun and read.

Continuation on > Page 2 > !

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